Avalanche Canada issued a Special Public Avalanche Warning for recreational backcountry users, in effect immediately until the end of the day Monday, February 12. The warning applies to the following regions: Lizard Range & Flathead, South Rockies, Purcells, Kootenay Boundary, South & North Columbia, Cariboos, and North Rockies. For a map of the regions involved, click here.
The snowpack in these areas contains a complex mix of weak layers. The weight of the new snow from nearly three weeks of constant storms has triggered many large avalanches in recent days. The pattern of avalanche activity is expected to change beginning Friday when the current storm breaks and a shift from widespread naturally triggered avalanches to more sporadic activity is expected.
“The decrease in natural avalanches coupled with improved weather and the long weekend is a classic situation where skiers and snowmobilers venture into more aggressive terrain where they might trigger avalanches themselves or be struck from above,” says Mark Bender, a senior avalanche forecaster for Avalanche Canada. “People might be surprised by how large an avalanche can be triggered and how far it could run.”
Numerous surprises and near misses have occurred in the last couple of weeks and a fatal accident occurred between Blue River and Valemount on January 30. “While danger ratings might come down on the weekend, lingering hazard will exist on most aspects and elevations for several days after the storm breaks,” adds Bender. “Travelling safely in the backcountry for the next few days will require expert-level skills to avoid hazardous areas. If you don’t have the training to recognize and avoid avalanche terrain, please avoid the backcountry or hire a professional guide.”
Parks Canada and Kananaskis Country have also released special public avalanche warnings for the weekend. Click here to learn more.
For current avalanche conditions, visit www.avalanche.ca.